Sustainability is a hot topic on everyone’s mind in the 21st century. All over the globe world leaders are waking up to the fact that we live on a planet with finite resources, and need to start thinking about how we can be more environmentally friendly to be kinder to the planet.
The global construction industry is one of the highest contributors to carbon emissions, and in the UK it’s no different. Construction sites use up lots of energy, there is plenty of material wastage, and the transportation of materials across the supply chain also adds to the emissions.
In the UK, the construction industry contributes to 45% of total UK carbon emissions, and 32% of landfill waste comes from construction sites and demolished buildings.
That doesn’t mean the construction industry isn’t trying to factor in sustainability and implement new greener measures. Many aspects must be considered when considering sustainability in the construction industry, from consumer demand, to types of materials used, and energy sources. But this must be done while keeping costs low and remaining efficient.
What is Sustainable Construction?
Sustainable construction is the practice in reducing the impact on the environment from the construction industry. There are plenty of ways to do this:
- Looking at supply chains and subcontractors to reduce shipping and transportation – therefore also reducing emissions
- Decreasing wastage on construction sites
- Using renewable energy sources when building and installing solar panels to reduce the energy consumption of finished projects
- Using recycled materials in building where possible
- Managing the impact of construction sites on the surrounding environment
Primary Issues Affecting Sustainable Construction
In the UK, commercial construction companies are taking measures to go greener in their construction projects.
The primary challenge in sustainable construction is keeping costs down. All industries are pressured to keep costs low, and plenty of construction companies are concerned that environmentally friendly buildings incur higher costs.
While there may be higher upfront costs, using renewable energy sources and installing solar panels makes a building more energy-efficient and reduces operating costs. Plus, the market has shown that greener buildings have a higher value, meaning any additional costs can get offset further down the line.
However, construction companies are tasked with the complex arrangement of organising keeping projects affordable, while reducing energy costs, maintaining efficiency, and managing the supply chain. All the while, there are stringent health & safety measures that cannot be negotiated.
However, as sustainable construction becomes more expected, client demand for greener buildings grows. Now clients expect something unique, that is more sustainable and eco-friendly. Green buildings are becoming more popular in cities as business owners look to rent spaces in eco-friendly buildings that offer something new and fresh. This can put construction firms in between a rock and a hard place of higher initial costs, and weighing up consumer demand.
New legislation has come in that aims at directing companies to be greener in their project. The United Nations has set up 17 Sustainable Development Goals, some of which are aimed at sustainable construction. This involves setting up sustainable communities and cities, and ensuring sustainable production and consumption patterns going forward.
The European Green Deal puts even more pressure on construction companies, looking at how projects are designed and constructed. It focuses on the construction industry going net-zero, and aims to make Europe a climate-neutral continent by 2050.
Some Companies Are Pioneering the Way Forward With Green Policies
There are commercial construction companies in London that are leading the way with sustainable practices for construction in the UK. This requires examining the entire construction process from raw materials, and the network of suppliers and subcontractors, to managing construction sites. Measuring the carbon life cycle of a project can help to reduce carbon emissions at every step of the process. Other methods involve using reclaimed timber, or recycled materials for furnishings in the building.
While it isn’t possible to remove all carbon emissions and wastage from the construction industry, there are other ways to help offset it. It’s impossible to make a construction site 100% environmentally friendly. But, companies can create partnerships with green projects around the globe. For example, woodland creation projects that plant trees or forest protection.
Every single step taken towards sustainability is a step towards helping the planet. While the targets set by the United Nations and European Union are ambitious, they can be achieved if companies around the world take measures to reduce their impact on the environment.
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